Most young people want health insurance to cover abortion, new poll finds


A new national poll found a majority of young adults believe abortion services should be covered by most health care plans, a finding that contrasts current coverage bans at the national and state level.

While the survey — conducted by the nonpartisan research organization Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) — also found that the United States is more divided on whether health plans should generally cover abortion care, especially as compared to other reproductive services like birth control, there is a critical fault line along race and age, with 52 percent of young adults saying they want abortion to be included in health coverage. This could have future policy implications.

“As this younger generation continues to flex its political muscles—as we saw in the response to the Parkland shooting—they could also reshape the national conversation on women’s health issues,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones.

PRRI asked 2,020 respondents by phone in March 2018 what services health insurance should cover. They found fewer than half of women (45 percent) and men (42 percent) say most insurance should cover abortion, but that people between 18 and 29 are more likely than older people to support this.

Respondents also varied by race. Nearly six in 10 Black Americans (59 percent) say insurance should cover abortion while about four in 10 (41 percent) white Americans did. Roughly 40 percent of Hispanics said these services should be covered, but support grew (51 percent) when they were born in the United States.

The fact that young adults and people of color are more likely to support abortion coverage mirrors other polling data.

“Abortion coverage is backed by a wide margin, mostly recently 55-42% (October 2017),” said Destiny Lopez, Co-Director All* Above All in statement to ThinkProgress. “This support is even stronger among millennials and people of color, including Latinos, African-Americans, and AAPI people.”

People’s feelings on this specific, policy question is reflective of their broader view of the issue, PRRI’s Associate Director of Research Robert Griffin told ThinkProgress. A majority of young people were more likely to shift toward supporting abortion rights, and are far less likely to say the procedure is at odds with their personal beliefs compared to older people.

While this distinction — whether abortion should be legal and covered — likely didn’t weigh on the respondents’ minds when PRRI surveyed them, it’s still critical. It provides insight into what people think when they say they support abortion rights. Although the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States, access to such right is still contingent upon zip code and income.

So while America is more pro-choice now, this isn’t necessarily reflected in policy. Just recently Congress unsuccessfully tried to restrict abortion coverage for private insurance offered on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, just as they have with federal Medicaid dollars. Already, 26 states restrict abortion coverage on ACA health plans and 11 states have laws that restrict coverage in all private insurance plans, with Texas just enacting its law this month. And Wisconsin just joined 21 other states this month that ban abortion coverage in health plans for public workers.

Abortion can cost upwards of $1,000, which is why coverage bans can make access — particularly for low-income people — virtually nonexistent. The fact that abortion coverage bans end up penalizing the poor is why two-thirds of West Virginia residents opposed legislation that bans state Medicaid-funded abortion even though a majority personally oppose the procedure, said West Virginia Free Executive Director Margaret Chapman Pomponio at a news conference in January.

“Certainly, this will surprise some legislators, but the results of this poll show the West Virginians I know and we know as being compassionate people,” she said.

The Senate killed this legislation, but the legislature did vote to put it on the ballot in November.


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